Tag Archive for: world resources institute

NY Times Article Says Quarter of Humanity Facing Looming Water Crisis

An article in the New York Times about a looming water crisis caught my eye today. Datelined Bangalore, India, the article describes how “Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water.” So what does that have to do with flooding? Many of those countries also experience cyclic flooding. Sound familiar?

Uncanny Parallels to Houston

In yet another uncanny parallel to our situation – i.e., with the Water Wars in Montgomery County – “…some are squandering what water they have. Several are relying too heavily on groundwater, which instead they should be replenishing and saving for times of drought.”

And then we have the subsidence parallel. Mexico City, claim the authors, draws groundwater so fast that the city is literally sinking.

In Chennai, India’s fourth largest city, residents accustomed to relying on groundwater for years now find none left. So the city is forced to transport water from farther and farther away (like our Luce Bayou Project). They lose significant amounts in the process due to evaporation and leakage.

The World Resources Institute expects the number of people worldwide living in “extremely high water stress” to nearly double in the next decade.

Cape Town, a city roughly the size of Houston, had to ration water last year.

Drought and Flooding Solutions Often Overlap

In Bangalore, lakes that once dotted the city have been filled in, much the way we fill in wetlands, so they can no longer collect rainwater and serve as the city’s water storage tanks.

That parallel reminded me of the dwindling water capacity in Lake Houston due to sedimentation. With backup supplies in Lake Livingston and Lake Conroe, Houston certainly doesn’t have to worry about running out of water any time soon. But as recent sedimentation surveys near the mouth bar showed, we do have to worry about loss of lake capacity.

Difference map developed by Tetra Tech for City of Houston in Feb/March, 2019, showing areas of deposition and scour near the West Fork Mouth Bar. Overall, Tetra Tech estimates that this small 350-acre area of Lake Houston gained 504-acre feet of sediment since the previous survey in 2011. Brown areas represent more than 5 FEET of deposition.

Drought and floods represent two sides of the same coin. This article reminded me that solutions to one problem can also help solve the other. For instance…

  • Developing adequate surface water supplies and saving ground water as the backup. This can reduce subsidence which can lead to flooding.
  • Improving lake/river capacity by dredging can eliminate blockages that also cause flooding.

As we move forward with West Fork and maintenance dredging, we should remember this. We aren’t just looking at costs that benefit Lake Houston residents. We’re looking at costs that benefit millions of residents in the larger metropolitan area. It’s not just about flooding. It’s also about water capacity for a rapidly growing population.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/6/2019

707 Days since Hurricane Harvey